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H&M factory in Myanmar vandalised

A factory in Myanmar making clothes for Swedish fashion retailer H&M has been vandalized. Hundreds of workers stormed the factory and damaged facilities including textile machinery, computers and surveillance cameras. They were demanding better conditions and benefits. Production at the factory has been halted since February 9. The dispute started with a strike in late January following the sacking of a local labor union leader. Workers demanded better performance review system and health care coverage.

It turned violent on February 9, prompting the factory's closure. The Chinese company makes garments such as skirts and shirts exclusively for H&M. H&M sources the bulk of its clothes in Asian low-cost countries such as Bangladesh, Cambodia and Myanmar. Ironically H&M is widely seen as being at the forefront among large apparel companies in promoting workers’ rights and fair wages. The company has called on sourcing countries such as Cambodia and Bangladesh to ensure fair pay for workers.

Myanmar’s fast growing textile industry, which employs more than 3,00,000 workers, has become attractive to global apparel brands such as H&M and Gap following the easing of economic sanctions by the United States and the European Union. But the country is a latecomer and it has some way to go in terms of well-defined labor laws.